- National Unity
- A Strong Central Government
- Minority Rights
- National Expansion
- Railways and Economic Development
- Cultural Nationalism
Canada’s Place in the British Empire
The rise of imperialist nationalism within English Canada and the emerging question of the country’s place in the British empire proved to be a challenge for Wilfrid LAURIER. In 1895 the British colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, proposed a new, more robust imperial federation with preferential tariffs and defence pacts:
“Britain was trundling out a new imperialism centred on the incomparable virtues of the ‘Anglo-Saxon race’ and its duty to convert as many peoples as possible to its brilliant civilization.… Many English Canadians who considered themselves nationalists accepted this imperialism and believed that the imperial framework would be an engine driving the advance from the status of colony to that of fully sovereign nation. On the other hand, many French Canadians rejected imperialism because it could lead to involvement in foreign wars and to the sacrifice of the country’s interests.”
Laurier, who became prime minister the following year, had to steer a difficult course between Canadians’ conflicting wishes. During his tenure as prime minister (1896–1911), he was attacked by those who saw him as too imperialist and by others who believed that he was not “British” enough [see The Prime Minister: External Relations].
For more on the question of Canada’s place in the British empire, see the following biographies.